Mother of woman shot and killed in North Carolina purchases billboard to help find killer

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HICKORY, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – On the outskirts of Hickory, in three separate locations, are three billboards, all with the same face and same message.

The face is of a woman who had so much going for her, and the message is one that would devastate any family.

“Please help us find who killed India ‘Semaj’ Rice. Her life was taken on May 12, 2021, around 10:45 pm,” it reads, along with a phone number for the Hickory Police Dept.

“I wanted to make sure people had that face in their minds, and that they had a face with that name,” said Lanora Evans, the mother of India ‘Semaj’ Rice.

Hickory Police said Rice was inside a home on 17th Street NW, just off Highway 321 on that night, when she became the victim of a drive-by shooting. Police said someone shot into the home.

“The shot came through the wall of the house and she was sitting with her back to the wall,” said Rice’s sister, Carrie Pearson.

Pearson was at home when the shooting happened.  She says the home and neighborhood where it happened are considered safe.

Rice’s family said, in two months there have been no suspects or suspects named and no arrests made in the case. 

The family also said that they feel there’s been little action in the investigation, and that’s part of the reason Evans took out some of her own money to pay for billboards along Highland Ave. NE, US-70E, and Highway 321 to get the word out.

“That’s the question I have–why would you do this to her?” said Evans. “I want people to talk.”

In a statement to FOX46, Hickory Police said they are actively investigating the case and are urging anyone with information to come forward.

For Rice’s family, though, they want people to know who she was.

“When she laughed, she laughed like a little kid and that’s what I’ve been thinking of,” said Evans.  “When she smiled back, it was like the girl that I raised.”

She was also a business owner who was in the process of adopting a child.

Pearson said Rice was also someone who was making plans at the time she died.

“When the shots came through the wall, we were talking about leaving and moving and picking places,” she said.  “So, it’s kind of devastating when you look back on it like that.”

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